March

DSC_0078 DSC_0086DSC_0009 DSC_0024 DSC_0034DSC_0026 DSC_0056 DSC_0065DSC_0001 So, February flew by! Between road trips and work on the farm kicking up a notch (babies, babies, babies), already a week or so into March and I feel like I’m only just catching up. Bright, clear days and the recent time change have brought along a sturdy feeling of spring here in Northern CA and I’m starting to think about planting our garden and if we want meat birds or more laying hens this season (maybe both?).

My knitting time has been a bit unpredictable the past few weeks, but it turns out I actually have a few finished projects to share, probably because they are pint size knits. The first is the Sophie Blouse which was a surprisingly quick knit. The result is a great little top, perfect for slipping over anything (pj’s!) to add an extra layer of warmth. In fact this top gets so much use that it has been worn, loved and washed already before I got around to getting any FO shots. The yarn is MCN Twist Fingering ‘Victorian’ by Northbound Knitting, and although there is quite a bit of piling, my love of the colourway overrides that, and between all the holding and cuddling, baby knits are going to be heavy handed anyway. The pattern is very straight forward, and I knit it as is. I’m excited for Nikki Van de Car‘s new book for toddlers, as I have knit a lot out of her first one. (this, this and this)

Next up for our little one was a project I should have been putting off for more important things, but the excitement of working on it won me over! The pattern is Fairy SnowCap by Rosemary (Romi) Hill, part of The Great Oddments Knitdown, and I don’t mind if this is the only pattern I make from the whole collection, it was worth every single penny… cent! I shrunk the pattern down to fit about an 18″ head. I don’t wear hats, the curls keeps me plenty warm, and I’d rather be able to see this hat than have to find a mirror to view the beautiful pattern – its perfect on her! I used a worsted weight yarn, Erin by Imperial Yarns in ‘Sweet Plum’, and worked on US 5 and US 3 size needles. After finishing the hat as written I felt like it needed a few more rows of the twisted rib to cover up her ears. The sewn bind off was a special treat, I love any fancy finishing. It was the first time for me using pom pom maker – genius things! – and although the result is a little over the top and could probably use a bit of trimming, I think I’m going to leave it as it is!!

As for more the important things, I’m working away on new patterns and still revisiting the older ones. Things have been a bit neglected so its a month to catch up!

Drive time

DSC_0007DSC_0011 DSC_0003DSC_0006 DSC_0001We are spending a lot of time in the car this month. Luckily two of our three road trips are to see friends and take a mini break, but either way sweater knitting has been postponed and I have dug out some smaller projects to take with me.

I started these socks, Simplicity, to learn how to work socks toe up… and two at a time. Yes, that is a lot all at once, and yes, they are taking forever – I feel so clumsy each round. I don’t know if I even like knitting socks but I know that I suffer from second sleeve syndrome, hence trying the two at a time thing. There just seems to be so much shuffling around the needles. I’m ready to start the heel and I still haven’t got into a rhythm. I do like the toe up method though. Maybe I need to take this class. Oh, and the yarn is gross. I’m trying to use up stash and cast on using Patons Stretch Socks yarn which contains 7% elastic. Its the strangest knitting experience. Thankfully they look better on… I’ll keep going – I think these will be the first socks I’ve made. And I know I shouldn’t let this pair ruin my view of sock knitting, I keep dreaming of all the amazing sock yarn I have tucked away, maybe they’ll motivate me to finish these beauties.

That brown chunky yarn? Yet another attempt to begin the search for the perfect hat for Mister. I have never knit him anything (what?), and he wears hats all the time (erm, hello?) so I decided for Christmas to knit him a hat, which I then burnt (yes, I did that), but it turned out to be too small, yet he liked the pattern, so I’m going to redo with an extra 8 sts. It’s a super fast knit.

So that’s a project for me, for him, and now one for the baby. This NBK yarn was once going to be Ruffaluffagus, but it turns out when you neglect a baby project for too long the baby grows, and your project no longer fits. I still love that pattern but I only have one skein of this yarn, not enough for a bigger size… and want to knit with the yarn more! This colorway is amazing, just the right amount of pink. I’m swatched and ready to cast on Sophie Blouse by Nikki Van De Car.

I’ll be knitting away the miles!

 

Straight needles

DSC_0073 DSC_0078 DSC_0131 DSC_0141 DSC_0145 DSC_0154 DSC_0180The other week I had a bit of a revelation. I thought that the love for straight needles was well and truely dead. When seeing them in a yarn store I always wonder how long they have been sitting there. But a full set, from 2 3/4mm to 7 1/2mm, came home with me from our Christmas in England, and as I planned to cast on a new project for our little one I thought I’d try them out. I was hard pushed to remember the last time I used them, but I know I definitely taught myself to knit using them. I posted on instagram and facebook and queried weather people still knit with straight needles or not. Turns out there is a love/hate relationship. Some people don’t even own any, some just plain love them.

Me? Well I thought a baby sized cardigan would be a good experiment, to see how I feel about them. First I had to read through the whole pattern – which, of course, is never a bad thing – but I had to think in terms of weather or not I could master the pattern on straight needles. Worked in one piece from back to front and seamed under the sleeves it turns out, for this cardigan, I could, and I cast on right away… It was a bit awkward to begin with, I felt like every stitch I was going to poke an eye out, and I kept smirking as I couldn’t help thinking how I looked like the ‘stereotypical’ knitter (whatever that means) clicking away, needles flapping like wings. But I got in my grove and finished the back of the sweater. As I cast on stitches at either side for the sleeves to grow it definitively got a bit crowded on my needles, but decided I’d rather that then add any more inches to the threatening eye weapon. I cast off for the neck and begun working down the left front, and it is only at this time at which I lost the other needle. Only once in the whole project was I fumbling around for the unattached needle. I surprised myself! I finished off the other front and picked up the stitches around the neck and fronts to finish the collar. This took cramming the stitches on the needle to another level but we got there in the end. Conclusion? I don’t hate them, but I don’t love ‘em. Perhaps for the perfect project, maybe a scarf? Maybe they just felt strange because I’m not used to them, but I’m definitely more at home with my circulars. What about you?

Pattern : Baby Ribbed Jacket by Debbie Bliss (FREE)

Yarn : Plymouth Yarn Worsted Merino Superwash Kettle Dyed (oh and I could do a whole ‘nother post on superwash yarn, ugh, can’t say I like the stuff, and this blocking experience reminded me why I avoid it. But I won’t go on and on because it all worked out, the crazy growth disappeared as it dried.)

Woolen-Spun Cormo by ElsaWool

DSC_0006 DSC_0101I’m really excited to share with you a new feature I plan to have alongside every pattern. In the hopes of connecting you more with the yarn we spend so much of our time knitting with, I will dedicate a post to the yarn used, the company who produces it, and sometimes the face of the farmer behind the wool!
Stepping Stitches, which I revisited this week, uses three skeins of Elsawool’s Woolen-Spun 100% Cormo wool yarn. This 2ply yarn is bouncy and elastic, and left in it’s natural colour it has the incredible rustic heatherd look of the fleece. But no scratchy farm wool here – Cormo wool is incredibly soft, and this yarn is divine! It’s so warm and buttery, you want to bury your cheeky right in it.

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Above images all © Elsawool www.wool-clothing.com

Just spending a few moments on Elsawool’s website you can tell that there is a lot of pride in their work. Elsawool provides high quality 100% Cormo products, from yarn, to sweaters, shawls and socks, and it is evident that incredible care and attention to detail is taken every step of the way. Even the yarn label goes above and beyond to explain how to properly care for your finished knit.
So here is the fun part, rather than me blab on about how much I love this yarn, I asked Elsa, who kindly agreed, to answer a few questions about her work, her wool and her lifestyle…

 Annie : Firstly can you tell us a little about Elsawool, what it does and why it exists?
Elsa : Elsawool came into existence for several reasons. First, I saw a need for good quality yet affordable wool clothing. Second, my life and my livelihood always have revolved around animals. I grew up on a farm, always kept a lot of animals, managed a pet farm, and worked as a veterinary nurse. Third, I’ve been involved with crafts all my life. All these factors converged in 1983, and I began keeping fiber animals, and having their fleeces made into yarns and knitted clothing and other products.

So why Cormo sheep? You don’t have to have a skein of 100% Cormo wool in your hands long to fall head over heals for it, but what makes it so special?
The Cormo breed was developed in Tasmania from Corriedale rams and superfine Merino ewes (Cor-mo). The superfine ewes contributed fineness and density to the wool, and the Corriedale rams added softness. Cormo wool is as fine as average merino wool, and it’s exceptionally soft. When I met my first Cormos and buried my hands into their fleeces I was surprised at how different from other fine wools the Cormo wool felt. After that, I never considered being involved with any other breed of sheep.

I love the light, bouncy feel of the woolen-spun yarn I used for this scarf, but you also offer a worsted-spun yarn. What is the difference between the two?
In the woolen spinning system, all the wool fibers (long and short) are carded and spun without putting the fibers in close alignment with each other. This system creates an airy, lofty, warm, absorbent, and cozy-feeling yarn.
In the worsted spinning system, the wool is carded, combed, drafted, and spun. Combing removes the short fibers and leaves only the longer fibers. Drafting aligns the fibers, making them parallel to each other and tightly packed together.  These processes result in dense, smooth, and strong yarns.
My worsted yarns are more expensive than my woolen yarns — because extra steps are required to make the yarns, and because only about 2/3 of the wool is used, and the other 1/3 is made into products of little monetary value.

All your yarn and fiber products are left in it’s natural color, and I love that. How hard is it for the mill to maintain the colours, or does it come down to when you sort and grade fleeces?…
The shades of gray are created at the mill by blending white wool with black and gray wools. Because the fleeces vary in color and shade from year to year, we’re not able to predict the exact color and shade we’ll get from each blend of white and dark wool. But we’re able to get very close to the shade we want.

Have you ever thought of dying your yarn?
I don’t plan on dyeing any of my yarn.  I leave that to others. Several dyers buy yarns from me, dye them, and sell the dyed yarns.

I understand you also buy from a flock from Montana but how many sheep do you run? How many times a year do you shear?
Fine wool sheep are shorn once a year.
I used to run 200 – 300 or more sheep. Shortly after I bought the first Cormos, I saw health problems in some of them. Later I learned that they had come to me with OPP, which is an incurable and fatal virus. After trying unsuccessfully for 7 years to eradicate this disease from my flock, I gave up. I stopped breeding the sheep and let each ewe live until she had to be put down. Now my beloved Cormos are no more. I’ve been buying Cormo wool from a family in Montana.  These people were among the first to import Cormos to the US, and they produce very good wool. My hope is to start a new flock some day.

How far do the fleeces travel to be spun into yarn?
My wool travels first from Colorado and Montana to a scouring mill in Texas, where it is washed. Some of the washed wool goes to Wisconsin and is spun into woolen yarns, and some goes to New England to be spun into worsted yarns. After that, some of the yarns are sent to other states and are knitted into clothing.

Where can we find your yarn?
You can find my yarns and clothing at www.wool-clothing.com, and also at the Wool Festival at Taos on the first full week-end of October.

What is a day in the life of Elsa?
Until recently my days were spent mostly outdoors — caring for the sheep and goats and guard dogs, tending the land, and building and maintaining barns, fences, roads, etc.. Without the sheep, most of my days are now focused on designing, making, and selling Cormo wool products.

Thanks Elsa!

Revisiting : Stepping Stitches

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With the decision to stop dying yarn and focus more on my knitting, I have spent some time going back over my existing patterns and paying them some attention.
I have given them a bit of an overhaul, updated the layout to make them more consistent with one another, perhaps tweaked the design a little, but, most importantly I have paired them each with a new yarn, one that is current and available.
In stepping away from my naturally dyed, CA grown organic yarn, which I loved to make available for others, I have decided to highlight yarns that might be American grown and spun, or organically grown, or naturally dyed, or all of the above! There are so many amazing yarns out there – some big names, and some small farms – and I’m going to try to convince you why they should be dominating your stash!!!

So with all this in mind; here is Stepping Stitches.
This scarf was my first pattern, and it was designed to teach a beginners knitting class. In fact it was the pattern I sent knitters away with once we had spent the afternoon drilling out knit and purl stitches. I’ve taken the orginal short, skinny scarf that was designed not to intimidate knitters into a scarf that I actually want to wear. The main factor? Squish. And a lot of it. I reworked the scarf to be almost 6 feet allowing a good wrap around the neck and shoulders, and it is wide, plenty of width to be worn more like a shawl if wanted. The stitch pattern is a classic one made up of simple knit and purl stitches, and in Elsawool’s Woolen-Spun? The knitted fabric is so so buttery soft, light and warm. I could go on and on about this yarn all day, but I wont right now, as later on this week I’m going to have a post specifically about the yarn used – something I will do for each pattern.
So those are the changes to the design and a little about the yarn, as for the layout? It’s just about keeping it simple. The pattern is a free download you can have a look for yourself here, but this is what you will find :

  • Clutter free layout. Easy to read yarn and needle requirements, simple abbreviation list, and if there are charts they are clear and to the point.
  • No huge images, to help with the cost of printing!
  • Links – they are all over the place. Anything highlighted in green is a link. This is to help people reading the pattern on their computer/tablet device/phone so much easier. For example :
  1. The pattern title will take you straight to the ravelry pattern page so you can jump straight there if you want more information, start your own project page, or to see other knitter’s projects etc.
  2. The yarn is linked to its online home, which is usually where you can purchase it directly from the company/farm. There is also a ravelry yarn link so you could quickly find out if someone is selling the yarn from their personal stash.
  3. The abbreviations have a helpful link in case you need a little support with some of the knitting terms.
  4. I also often link specific knitting techniques to helpful tutorials about the web, in case it is your first time using it. I’ve found this feature in other people patterns so helpful and have learned so many new methods this way!
  5. And finally contact details : my website and email. Please let me know if you have a question!

So there is a bit of an intro into what I’ve been up to : next up, the yarn!

The New Year

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There is nothing like a New Year to fuel ambition!… I’m coming back to this space, probably just as and when I can, but I do have a few things I’m excited to share with you!!
We are enjoying an unusually warm week this month, and boy are we soaking it in. I have the back door wide open, laundry on the line and a content six month old who is her happiest self when out in the fresh air watching the trees sway. So you see this year is starting off on a good foot (ok, so I’m cancelling out the first week of illness, I’m allowed), and whats more, close friends just had their first brand new sweet baby, and there is nothing better than knitting up something tiny and cute to send on its way.

I’ve decided its going to be a good year.

Summer Sweaters

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We are all adjusting. Actually better than I thought we would. Maybe it’s the amazingly sunny Californian summers day, or this morning’s visit from my two best knitterly friends, but it is starting to feel like we are slowly getting our groove back, and fitting into this world now as a family.

But of course it’s chaos, we’re tired, and I forget things, lots of things – one happens to be the beginning of the Summer Sweater KAL over at luvinthemommyhood. I’m no stranger to Shannon’s KALs, and in fact they are the only KALs I have ever joined in with, they’re too much fun to say no to!
However, what with my new life as Mama leaving a lot less time to knit (but I do have two FOs under my belt! more on those soon), my official ambitions for this KAL are a lot smaller than last year’s… but also because I’m going to throw in some unofficial goals.

‘Officially’ I am going to work on something for our little girl – Ruffaluffaugus by Cassandra Dominick. Not only does this pattern have the best name ever, but Cassy was awesome to offer the pattern up for free the first few days it was available. I snaffled it up, not knowing if we were to have a boy or a girl, only that it was a super cute pattern and one I would like to have stashed away. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m here, with a sweet baby girl and the unpredictable Northern Coastal CA weather. It’s all about layers. I feel like I have made our littleun wear her Puerperium Cardigan every other day, and so I was trawling through ravelry for a similar type of thing… and as it goes, the Ruffaluffagus (still love that name) popped up and to the front of the queue it went! The yarn I’m going to cast on with I am really excited about. I’m not a pink person, but I’m willing to try it out given the circumstances (you can’t avoid it, seriously, when you have a girl people give you pink things) and so when NorthboundKnitting had an update I just JUMPED at the Victorian colourway. Ok, I know, its mostly grey, but with that little bit of pink? Just scrummy.

Unofficially? Well, I went through my project basket of… projects bags. I found three sweaters. First one being the Brock Cardigan from the Spring Tops, Tanks and Tees KAL, so I really shouldn’t be counting it, but, unofficially I can do what I want right?! I have only just a few inches of the sleeves left to do, but I’m trying to work them two at a time on too short of a circular needle, and, well, I just need to get a longer needle or go back to working them one at a time. I should be wearing this cardigan right now, its so perfect for this summer weather (wasn’t that the point of the KAL?).
The second is a project I cast on a few months in to my pregnancy and I was so determined to finish before baby came… but, then, 17 inches of stockinette stitch at ~400 sts per round happened. It’s Boxy by Joji Locatelli and I still love, love this pattern. Hopefully having a bit of a break from it will keep me going until the end, before those wrinkles get really set in there!
Thirdly, the Judith Cardigan by Cecily Glowik MacDonald for my sister in law (nope, no pink for me). Yes, I’m that person that offers to knit someone something for Christmas, and then thinks about finishing it 7 months later! Yikes. The truth is that I found an error in the pattern and whilst I waited (a long time) for a response other projects jumped on the needles. I want to finish this off for her asap as she also just had a baby, a week or so before us, and I can’t wait to send this along to give her something special to cosy up in. We decided to make the cardi fully length, in the body and the sleeves, so there is a little extra brain work, but I’m just remembering how fun that lace pattern is!

So officially and unofficially I’d like to finish as much of the above as I can before the KAL deadline September 24th, but we’ll see – Mama brain, and duties, might have other plans…

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